From sled runs to café hopping, farm friends to exotic plants, this relaxed downtown neighbourhood is the place to go for chill, low-key adventure.
Families with children — hugging shiny blue “flying carpets” — traipse through the snow-laden back lanes of Cabbagetown, making a beeline for the toboggan slopes of Riverdale Park West.
Couples get to know one another as they stroll historic Parliament Street, cups of take-out coffee in hand from Jet Fuel Coffee, the neighbourhood’s go-to spot.
And the cows at the Riverdale Farm barnyard contentedly chew their cud, at peace with the falling snow.
That’s the quiet beauty of winter in Cabbagetown, a quaint neighbourhood that sits just east of bustling Church-Wellesley Village and west of eclectic Gerrard Street East. Here are 10 Cabbagetown destinations where you can experience the vibe for yourself.
Take a snapshot of wintertime farm life. This 3-hectare (7.5-acre) working farm is home to cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and goats. In addition to exploring the barns, paddocks, pens and pathways, you can join year-round craft programs in The Meeting House. (Note: Animals can be viewed in pens and paddocks daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but indoor activities and attractions, including the barns, are currently on pause, so check the website for updates. 201 Winchester St.
Some of the best downhill sledding in town can be found on the pristine slopes just south of Riverdale Farm. If you discover that the hill is too slippery to climb when you reach the bottom, there’s a handy staircase to get you back to the top and do it all over again. 375 Sumach St.
TIP: Didn’t pack a sled? Visit Royal Home Hardware for some options. 485 Parliament St.
One is never sure if it’s the chandeliers adorning the ceiling — or the Love Boat for Two combo — that makes this Japanese restaurant so appealing for romantic nights out. Diners can select from an array of soups, salads, tataki plates and seafood, though regulars say they keep coming back for the shareable sushi pizzas, which pair an avocado base with yams, salmon, scallops, tuna, crab or unagi. 533 Parliament St.
Where better to warm up after a day exploring wintry Cabbagetown than an Italian trattoria housed in a cozy cottage? F’Amelia focuses on northern Italian cuisine: salads, focaccia, risotto, pizza and pasta (including vegan options). Dessert? Tiramisu is an excellent balm for winter’s chill. 12 Amelia St.
This indoor botanical garden — which houses six greenhouses over 1,490 sq m (16,000 sq ft) — is a veritable oasis in winter. Imagine strolling inside the humid conservatory surrounded by bromeliads, orchids, gingers and agaves as snowflakes cascade outside. Arrive at midday and chances are good you’ll observe the glass dome atop the cast-iron Palm House set ablaze by the winter sun. 19 Horticultural Ave.
After a chilly park outing, you’ll want to warm up and indulge in something sweet. Do it at Congo Coffee, which imports its direct-trade beans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an under-the-radar coffee producer. Their caramel cappuccino is like dessert in a cup, and goes swimmingly with their beignets, a type of fritter or deep-fried pastry that’s crunchy outside, soft inside. A dusting of cinnamon renders them heavenly. 298 Gerrard St. E.
Where do you and your besties go after you’ve channelled your inner squealing child on the toboggan runs of Cabbagetown? Your best bet to continue the bonhomie would be the communal tables at Salt and Tobacco. This relaxed pizza parlour (gluten-free and vegan options available) is modest in size but big on its welcoming vibe. There’s a great selection of beers on tap, as well as wine. And don’t be surprised if a local stranger joins you at your table. 521 Parliament St.
With its beautiful vistas, statuary and Victorian architecture, this cemetery is worth a winter afternoon stroll. Notable citizens (such as former NDP leader Jack Layton, and Anderson Ruffin Abbot, the first Canadian-born Black surgeon) are interred in the Necropolis, one of Toronto’s oldest cemeteries, located just north of Riverdale Farm.
History buffs may want to tramp through the snow to locate the monuments that commemorate folks like Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, two rebels who were hanged in 1838 for their role in the 1837 rebellion in Upper Canada. 200 Winchester St.
The best seats in the house to watch a pristine snowfall blanket the streets? The window-facing stools just by the door. However, if you’re on a date, choose one of the tables for two along the back wall. You’ll also share the space with die-hard winter cyclists vying for the incredible pastries and tummy-warming lattes. (Note: currently takeout only, so check café website for updates.) 519 Parliament St.
One of a handful of Indian restaurants on the Parliament Street strip, this one has won accolades from various foodie blogs for its namesake dish. But if numbers warrant, consider ordering the whole tandoori chicken for your table, or for a tongue-stinging feast after your afternoon in the snow, the chili chicken with fluffy pea-and-rice pullao and a sweet mango lassi to wash it all down. 556 Parliament St.
Getting to Cabbagetown:
Take the Line 1 Yonge-University subway to College station, then take the 506 Carlton streetcar eastbound to Parliament Street.